15 Tips to Master mCommerce

15 Tips to Master mCommerceThe march of mobile devices on the humble desktop computer has been happening for the last few years. With smartphone penetration now standing at over half the adult population of both the US and the UK, the first world is finally keeping pace with the rapidly ‘mobifying’ developing economies of the world.

The Branding Brand Mobile Commerce Index compares mCommerce figures for January 2015 with those from last year. Desktop revenues fell from 81% to 76% of the total online revenues, while smartphone revenues grew by 50% to account for 12% of total online revenues.

The writing on the wall is clear. Users are shifting to mobile. They’re spending progressively larger amounts of time and money on mobile devices. If businesses plan to remain in business, it follows that they go where the consumers are. Welcome mCommerce.

mCommerce is essentially eCommerce transported to the mobile platform. While the basic idea is the same, the details differ greatly. Here’s a rundown of the top 15 things you need to fix on your website to master your mCommerce plans.

1. Responsive Design

This is the same advice that prescient web gurus have been touting for the last half decade. No, there’s no more debate on whether we need responsive design. We most definitely do. While responsive design is not the only way for your e-commerce site to be mobile friendly, it definitely is the most convenient from a site maintenance and marketing perspective.

Moreover, Google too prefers responsive design over mobile only websites or adaptive designs. When the big G has spoken, how dare we not comply?

2. No Flash

This one’s a no brainer by now. The Apple juggernaut and the ‘flash blindness’ of all its assorted i-devices means that Flash started to fade away from desktop sites over the last few years. The fact that mobile browsing has now overtaken desktop browsing means that the mobile web will have no room for Flash enabled sites.

Steer clear of flash. If you do have to have animation on your mobile site, opt for HTML5 instead.

3. Full featured Site, not ‘Desktop-Lite’

Too many mobile sites that you see are built as a bonus or add-on to the ‘main’ desktop site. The mobile site typically offers access to the key sections of the site, but a large part of the site’s functionality is often restricted on mobile devices.

No more. Stop viewing your mobile sites as ‘good to have’ add-ons. Soon, they’ll be your primary breadwinners. Equip them with the full range of features and functionality that your main site would provide, but remember to keep them light and easy to move around in.

4. Optimize for Search Engines

The largest chunk of users (48%) begin their product research on search engines on their mobile devices. This means all that effort that you’ve been putting in on your website SEO now needs to be doubled and applied to your mobile site as well.

So what if your pages are tiny? Your keywords still matter on mobile. The fact that you have a mobile optimized site goes a long way in helping your mobile SEO. Quality inbound links to your mobile pages help identify your site as authoritative and contributes to a better ranking.

5. Consistent Look and Feel

Consumers are creatures of habit. Once a customer is familiar with your brand or your website, they tend to expect a similar experience each time they visit your site or store. A sudden change in the UX can cause friction in the user’s purchase journey – something that leads to abandoned shopping carts.

Avoid a jarring change in user experience by designing your mobile and desktop sites in a similar style. The colors, layouts, page elements and transitions should be kept consistent to build a strong brand recall across all devices.

6. Short, Prefilled Forms

Mobile devices typically have screens that are too tiny for typing in long bits of data. E-commerce sites are notorious for the umpteen forms that they expect customers to fill out to complete the sale.

Don’t fall prey to this rookie mistake on your mobile site. Keep the forms short and ask for only as much information as you really, truly need. Wherever possible pre-fill forms e.g. state, country or zip code can be pre-filled on mobile using the mobile’s IP address and GPS location tracking.

7. Personalized Content

As mentioned earlier, mobile devices have much smaller screens than laptops or desktops. While personalization is a given for e-commerce sites; your mCommerce site needs the same TLC from a personalization perspective. In fact, offering users suggestions proactively, makes it easier for a user to see and select relevant options for their purchases on mobile.

It’s a well-documented fact that personalization enhances that user’s experience on your site and helps them buy more as well as buy easily. By offering personalized product suggestions on mobile devices, you’re aiding your users’ product search. You’re also sending a gentle reminder that your users’ preferences matter to you and you take the extra effort to show them what you think they’ll like. Double win.

8. Don’t Skimp on Images, but Keep Them Light

As an e-commerce site, product images are a must have on your website. Expecting users to convert without an image is like expecting your dog to recite Shakespeare after he rips a play to pieces. It goes without saying that your mobile site needs those product images just as much as your desktop site does. There’s just one problem.

The better is your image, the higher is the space it will occupy on the server, leading to higher load times. A way out of this conundrum is to use image optimizers that will resize as well as compress images and make them perfect for being shared on your website whether online or on mobile. Don’t penalize your users by costing them extra in data charges with your heavy image files. Keep ‘em light.

9. Large Buttons, More White Space

How many of us have not experienced the frustration of typing stuff into a mobile screen and pushing teeny tiny buttons only to mix them up and have to redo what we were doing all over again? A sizeable number, is my bet. Fat-finger syndrome is quite universal and overcoming it is often a mobile UX designer’s biggest challenge.

Give your users a break from their fat-finger fumblings by offering larger buttons so they don’t push the wrong one. Reduce the clutter on your pages and keep enough breathing room or white space around your main content. This not only helps your main message stand out in a small space, it also makes it easier for users to avoid mistakes when accessing your site.

10. No Sliders

Automated slideshows that showcased a different offer on each slide were all the rage about five years ago. Nearly every website was designed with a slideshow that had at least four different ‘hero banners’ that rotated on a click or automatically. Most took over the lion’s share of the screen above the fold. When websites started being adapted for mobile, the same design carried on to tiny mobile screens.

Imagine trying to click on a banner that’s in constant motion on a tiny screen. Tough. Besides, the sliders were proven to be a bad idea from a conversion perspective even on a desktop site long ago. You don’t want yesterday’s badly performing technology on your spanking new mobile site.

11. No Drop Down Menus

I am going back to the same argument of small screen sizes and fat fingers to justify this one. Drop down menus typically have five or six different navigation options that a user would then have to pick from to proceed on your site. Trouble is, most drop down menus open in a way that not all options are even visible on the mobile screen as they end up below the fold. By scrolling lower, the drop down menu retract into themselves, thus making the task of navigation pretty well frustrating.

Have easily clickable category buttons that drill down deep into sub categories instead of impossible to handle drop down menus.

12. Search

Desktop sites see about 30% of their users heading straight for the search bar to locate what they want on your site. With navigation on mobile sites not really a walk in the park, I’m going to bet that even more users are search buffs on mobile sites than they are on the desktop versions.

Don’t take search away from your mobile experience in a quest to keep the site light and quick to load. Search is an integral component of the online experience. Let’s not spoil it for our users. You may not be able to offer images of searched items on autocomplete, but you definitely can provide a well-designed search function to your mobile audience.

13. Reduce Checkout Steps

The longer your checkout process is, the higher are the chances that a user gets distracted and / or bored and leaves the purchase process. This is true on desktop sites. It’s doubly true for mobile sites. The reason is simple. There are only so many tiny pages your users have the patience to navigate through before they complete the transaction.

The average length of the checkout process across the 100 top grossing websites is 5.08 steps. That’s for desktop checkouts. Try and keep under that number of 5 steps and you’ll be on the right track. If nothing else, take a cue from Amazon. Their one-click shopping patent was way ahead of the times when it was launched and will continue to be the gold standard for e-commerce checkouts at least for the foreseeable future.

14. Save for Later Option

Mobile users spend inordinate amounts of time browsing online via their smartphones. This means, a lot of visits to your site can be mere window shopping, and not visits with a real purchase intent behind them. But hey, that does not mean we waste the visit that a window shopper makes to your site.

Give your window shoppers a reason to come back by offering a ‘save for later’ option on your mobile site. The constant proximity of the mobile phone, the large amounts of time users spend on them, the ease of retrieving a bookmarked item and the speed with which payments can be processed on mobile all come together to make ‘save for later’ fertile grounds for stepping up your conversions.

15. Allow Social Logins

Very few e-commerce sites allow users to make purchases on a consistent basis without creating a user profile. While some force users to create a new user ID before making even their first purchase, most smart sites create an ID for the user themselves after the initial guest purchase. Even in this more strategically thought out scenario, the user still needs to create and remember a brand new password for all future transactions. Quite a hassle, when you take into account all the various sites an average online shopper shops on.

That’s where social login steps in. Most users are permanently signed in on social media apps on their smartphones. By offering social login on your mobile site, you allow users to sign in with the Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or similar social credentials making the process seamless and quick for them. Your users are saved the hassle of remembering yet another password. In the process, you get access to your users’ social information – something that can be used to personalize their experience on your site even better.

Parting Thoughts

Mobile internet outstripped PC based access already last year. Clearly, it’s not a matter of should your business be mobile ready, but more of is it ready yet. Share with us what steps you have taken to step into the era of device agnostic commerce. We’d love to hear from you!

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